Robert Parker’s Wine Scoring System Can Be Applied In Business Too.

Robert Parker is the most widely known and influential wine critic in the world today. His popular wine scoring system was the first simple way to determine the quality of wine. Parker is known for his preference for powerful reds from Napa and the Rhone and has inadvertently made becoming a wine critic almost impossible, since— in part because of the success of his scoring system. That takes a lot of fun away. Can you imagine we have scorecards for wine, food, paintings, music and dance? We can do that for business but not for art. Wine is art. Well perhaps business is art too!

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Getting 90 points means a wine is of superior quality and character and is something you can share with confidence with friends and clients. And they don’t necessarily have to be expensive and sometime can be within reach. If a 90 point wine costs $30 then it is a smart choice. But it should not automatically means that you will like it? Same thing for business, an outstanding business model that delivers above average return may not necessarily be the right business model for you.

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Wines rated 95-100 are considered classics, the best of their kind. Less than 2% of the 20,000 wines we review each year earn “classic” scores. Wines rated 90-94 are outstanding examples of their types. Wines rated 85-89 are “very good,” and under 80-84 are “good,” that is, they are clean, balanced and enjoyable. Anything below 80 points are generally not recommended.

I am not a wine expert. But I pick wine for all my best friends. But I think wines can be both good and good value at any tiers. I can recommend good wines that are ranked under 80 and bad ones over 85. For example, if I want a bottle for a weekend dinner with friends, an 85-point wine at $25 to $30 may be a better choice or good enough choice than a 93-point wine at $75 wine that requires five years in the cellar to reach its full potential. There is something call good enough. And it applies to wine, design, marketing and engineering. Over design, marketing or engineering often achieve the opposite results.

You need to understand the wine descriptors and understanding which wine embodies which traits. Scoring is only for general guidance. I find these traits can equally effective to apply in scoring of business strategies and models.

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Wine like Pinot Noir needs to achieve a balance between the acidity of the grape against the flavor and texture. For business, you need to look at the business strategy to ensure a balance between investing for growth and delivering earnings. To avoid underinvesting that can cause a downward spiral. Yes you still need to deliver a P&L at an acceptable level in terms of earnings and ROICs but should never be at the expense of staying relevant and jump starting growth.

Recommended: Montecastro, Ribera del Duero, Northern Spain Red.

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Structure is the framework that supports the elements of flavor, tannin, acid and sugar. The structure dictates the first taste to mid-palate to the finishing flavor. For business, a proper structure ensure there is a flow from ideation of new business opportunities to understanding what market it is trying to serve to the final go-to-market planning. The first taste of excitement of an innovative idea needs to be executed flawlessly and it takes a good structure.

Recommended: Louis Martini, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Remember that first sip of wine provides you with the flavor of fully ripe fruit. That’s the kind of wine I like. The fruitiness rushes into your mouth. Fruit forward wines are primarily about the grape / varietal expression, over the expression of either place (i.e. terroir) or winemaking practices such as the use of oak, lees contact or managed oxidation. This is the same for business, customers need to get the sweet taste and delight in the form of customer experience when they first encounter your brand. Companies that do a good job in creating a memorable delight can be ahead of its competitions. In business, it means Delight Forward. Unboxing is a good example.

Recommended: Dehlinger, Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.


A wine can be visually bright, have bright aromas, or flavors. In each instance the wine is perceived vividly with high clarity. A business can be bright, it is when the company successfully create a culture of “brilliance” – a lot of common sense in how decisions are made by mid-level management. Bright is independent of experience. The ability to think quick, to look at options, to compare and synthesize—all these skills are particularly important to build a culture of "brilliance". The cycle of exploring, mapping and reasoning, asking the right questions, is really what builds organization capability to think critically and be brilliant. The best companies are always in pursuit of brilliance.

Recommended: Frei Brothers Reserve, Russian River Valley Chardonnay

There are two more attributes in the scoring system: Creamy and Fine Tannins. Anyhow, these scores make it simple for some to look at a wine, But it is actually quite difficult to pin down. Is an 89 good, very good or great? Is there really a difference between wines rated 91 and 93? Knowing that there are inconsistencies, prejudices and palate differences so wine needs to be re-tasted every couple of years. The same case for business, a business strategy that is working needs to be revisited every few years.

"Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin" -Napoleon Bonaparte